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The iconic Tram 28 passing the Lisbon Cathedral, Igreja da Sé.
CITY GUIDE

A local’s guide to Lisbon

The iconic Tram 28 passing the Lisbon Cathedral, Igreja da Sé.
  • By Catarina Fernandes Martins
  • Photos by Tiago Maya
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There’s a saying in Portugal about our mercurial people: We go from 8 to 80, from zero to hero, in hating to loving ourselves as a nation. But consistently beloved Lisbon is an exception.

Even after the rise of tourism-driven gentrification, the Portuguese love their capital city too much to resent it, preserving Lisbon instead in a golden cage of nostalgia that we call “saudade.” Expect to find some of this melancholy wandering the slippery cobblestones — as well as neighborhoods that seem to have forgotten about the past. We hope hilly and layered Lisbon shows you both.

Meet Catarina Fernandes Martins

Catarina has lived in Lisbon since 2008. She’s from a small town in the east of Portugal, which fostered an early desire to travel the world. She has yet to find a light she finds as magical as Lisbon’s.

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IN THE ACTION
Graça
Graça sits on top of Lisbon’s highest hill. If you don’t mind the steep slopes, this is where you’ll find the most transfixing views of the city. A 25-minute walk from Baixa-Chiado, the downtown area, Graça is one of the few neighborhoods that hasn’t been upended by tourism. Modern bars and restaurants live side-by-side with traditional stores and some of the most original street art in the city. Find this neighborhood.
LOW-KEY
Campo de Ourique
Campo de Ourique is a residential area with village-like tranquility that makes one feel as if they’ve left Lisbon entirely. Easy to navigate because of its grid system, it’s a mix of Art Nouveau buildings, stores and the most controversial architecture project of Lisbon: the Amoreiras shopping mall. Find this neighborhood.
Neighborhoods

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Eat

BREAKFAST
A Nova Pombalina
The brunch culture, slow to arrive to Lisbon, has taken over quickly. But the bustling Nova Pombalina, a five-minute walk from Lisbon’s main square, Terreiro do Paço, sticks instead to a traditional Portuguese breakfast. Here you can grab old-fashioned sandes de leitão, suckling pig sandwiches, at the counter and eat them with what some Lisboans consider the best fruit juices in town — and a pastel de nata, of course.
BTW: Grab your sandwich and eat it on the marble steps of the Cais das Colunas pier, which used to serve as the city’s grand entrance.
A Nova Pombalina, Rua do Comércio 2, 1100-321 Lisbon, Portugal
BREAKFAST
Naked
Not too long ago, it was hard to find places that served hearty vegetarian, vegan or raw meals in Lisbon, especially for breakfast. Yet Naked’s flexitarian approach (some fish options, no meat) succeeds in making patrons both full and healthy. The vegetable empada at Naked is lighter than the juicy pork variety you’ll find at Nova, but it’s likewise delicious.
BTW: Be sure to grab one of the house-made pastries. They don’t follow Portugal’s tradition of very sugary sweets.
Naked , R. da Escola Politécnica 85-87, 1200-279 Lisbon, Portugal
LUNCH
Mercado de Campo de Ourique
The market of Campo de Ourique has served as the heart of the quietest neighborhood in Lisbon since its opening in 1934. In 2013, the market was refurbished to resemble the San Miguel Market in Madrid, targeting urban and modern customers wanting more upscale cuisine, while keeping its fruit and vegetable stalls. Head to Atalho do Mercado, where the steaks are juicy and perfectly grilled. This market is less crowded than the more famous Mercado da Ribeira, in Cais do Sodré.
BTW: Opt for a glass of Portuguese wine at the Vinhos do Mercado stand.
Mercado de Campo de Ourique, Rua Coelho da Rocha 104, 1350-075 Lisbon, Portugal
LUNCH
Frutalmeidas
Lisboans love to grab pastéis de massa tenra, minced meat patties, for lunch at Frutalmeidas, an iconic cafe and grocery store where the fruit juices compete with the ones served at Nova Pombalina. For some Lisboans, Frutalmeidas was the place where their grandparents took them for an after-school snack, and where they now take their own children. Their strawberry cake is a staple at many kids’ birthday parties. A local favorite, it isn’t a spot where you’ll find many tourists.
BTW: Order a soup of the day before your pastel de massa tenra, and you’ll fit right in.
Frutalmeidas, Av. Roma 45, 1700-342, Lisbon, Portugal
DINNER
Casa da Índia
A traditional bustling-but-cozy “tasca,” this is the type of place where Lisboans feel most at home. The staff charmingly yells your order over the counter and, despite the restaurant’s size and constant flow of patrons, always manages to find everyone a seat. Don’t be shy about ordering a lot of fritters or a lot of beer: This is one of the best values around.
BTW: The cooks grill chicken and cuttlefish right at the storefront window. It’s worth a picture.
Casa da Índia, Rua do Loreto 45, 1200-086 Lisbon, Portugal
DINNER
Batata Doce
During the colonial war, Portuguese soldiers fighting in Angola found an unaccompanied 2-year-old, took care of her and brought her to Portugal, where she was raised. The story made the cover of a news magazine — a copy of which Isabel Manuel Jacinto, now a grown woman, proudly displays on a wall of her small but exceedingly popular restaurant in the Lapa neighborhood. Jacinto, nicknamed “Batata Doce,” or “Sweet Potato,” serves authentic and tasty Portuguese dishes with African influences.
BTW: If they’re serving moqueca, a fish stew with coconut milk, you will not want to miss it.
Batata Doce, Rua São João da Mata 56, 1200-734 Lisbon, Portugal
LATE-NIGHT
A Merendeira
Lisboans like partying till dawn, but there aren’t many places serving food in the wee hours. That’s why Merendeira, in Cais do Sodré, is practically an institution in Lisbon. Go for the pão com chouriço, a traditional chorizo sandwich, and caldo verde, a Portuguese soup made with potatoes, collard greens, olive oil and thinly sliced sausage. That might add up to a lot of chorizo, but in Lisbon, it’s the fuel you’ll need to continue a long night of dancing.
BTW: Order the arroz doce, Portuguese rice pudding sprinkled with cinnamon. Locals always do.
A Merendeira, Av. 24 de Julho 54, 1200-868 Lisbon, Portugal
LATE-NIGHT
Galeto
Open until 3 a.m., this Saldanha neighborhood spot is where locals go after a movie to eat a prego (a beef sandwich) or a croquette (a small, bread-crumb-coated, fried roll filled with meat). Divided up by its winding counter, it’s the closest thing you’ll find in Lisbon to an American diner.
BTW: Order french fries and esparregado (spinach mousse), a combination that seems to make the most sense late after a few drinks.
Galeto, Av. República 14, 1050-191 Lisbon, Portugal
(Lisbon illustrator Rafael Serra for The Washington Post)
LOCALS THINK YOU SHOULD KNOW
  1. Salt-cod fritters should never have cheese inside them. Never.
  2. Those identifying as male thank someone by saying “obrigado.” Women use “obrigada.”
  3. Lisboans unite in our untranslatable saudade — a mystical form of nostalgia for the past, and even for the future.
(Lisbon illustrator Rafael Serra for The Washington Post)

Do

Gulbenkian Foundation
The Gulbenkian Foundation was established in 1956, following the death of oil tycoon and art collector Calouste Gulbenkian, one of the world’s richest people at the time. The foundation headquarters, between São Sebastião and Praça de Espanha, includes the Gulbenkian Museum, home to a vast private collection of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Asian, Islamic and European art. The institution regularly hosts free concerts, too.
BTW: Stroll around the labyrinthine Gulbenkian Garden, which surrounds the buildings of the foundation, and feed the ducks on the water’s edge.
Gulbenkian Foundation, Av. de Berna 45A, 1050-078 Lisbon, Portugal
Embaixada
Embaixada is a shopping center built in a 19th-century Moorish palace, replete with domes and arched windows, that acts as an “embassy” for the best and most innovative Portuguese-made products. After you’re done shopping, head to the garden terrace of the Gin Lovers bar, where you can relax in the quiet but cosmopolitan atmosphere of Príncipe Real.
BTW: Check out Organii Cosmetica, an eco-friendly Portuguese cosmetics brand.
Embaixada, Praça do Príncipe Real 26, 1250-184 Lisbon, Portugal
Príncipe Real farmers market
Príncipe Real hosts this long-running farmers market every Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with vendors offering a prime selection of fruits, vegetables, eggs, artisanal cheeses, bread, jams, olive oil, soaps and healthier Portuguese desserts. At the end of each month, the same spot becomes home to one of Lisbon’s best flea markets.
BTW: The market is a good place to buy bread made with grains such as kamut and spelt.
Príncipe Real farmers market, Praça do Príncipe Real, 1250-096 Lisbon, Portugal
Tram 28
The 28, which dates to the 1930s, remains the easiest way to access some of Lisbon’s steepest streets and alleys. The rickety tram connects Martim Moniz to Campo de Ourique, providing a scenic slide through Graça, Alfama, Baixa, Chiado and Estrela.
BTW: Board at Martim Moniz to avoid the crowds gathering around Praça Camões. And be wary of pickpockets.
Tram 28, Rua Senhora Saúde 6B, 1100-390 Lisbon, Portugal
Pensão Amor
Near the Tagus River, in the old red-light district of the city, sits this brothel-turned-disco club, whose burlesque decor, mirrors and leopard-and-gold pole-dancing room echo its history. Walk through the rooms along the club’s five floors and let your imagination run wild about what used to go on here.
BTW: This might be a good place to surrender to card divination, courtesy of Pensão Amor’s resident fortune teller.
Pensão Amor, Rua do Alecrim 19, 1200-292, Lisbon, Portugal
Tasca do Chico, Bairro Alto
If you want to listen to fado, Portugal’s revered folk music, a night at Tasca do Chico is a must. This is where passionate new singers show their talents and where, occasionally, well-known figures show up for unexpected sets. You never know what might happen, aside from this: The small tavern is always full, so go early.
BTW: Tasca do Chico won’t be Tasca do Chico if you don’t try chouriço assado, roasted chorizo, by the dim light in between fado sessions. That’s right: more chorizo.
Tasca do Chico, Bairro Alto, Rua do Diário de Notícias 39, 1200-108, Lisbon, Portugal
Catarina Fernandes Martins
Catarina has lived in Lisbon since 2008. She’s from a small town in the east of Portugal, which fostered an early desire to travel the world. She has yet to find a light she finds as magical as Lisbon’s.
Tiago Maya
Tiago is a contributing photographer to The Washington Post in Lisbon, having photographed people and places for over 20 years. Although he loves the terra-cotta-speckled vistas of his city, you can often find him escaping to the ancient castled villages scattered across the Portuguese countryside.
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TiagoMaya

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